Afghan Rap and Why it Matters
introducing Sonita Alizadeh and others
Why it matters: Seventy percent of Afghans are under 25. Afghans are an inherently poetic people, moved by the wisdom of words, rhythms, and melodies. What poetry was to an older generation, rap is for the emerging generation. It speaks truth to power and can help create a new social order for Afghans. What happens in Afghanistan affects many other in the world who want the best for Afghans and whose own lives are directly or indirectly influenced by what happens in Afghanistan. That's why Afghan Rap matters. That's why it is important to recognize that the winds of the Spirit blow through its prophetic invocations.
The world of Afghan rap is wide and varied, created by some Afghans who live in Afghanistan and some who live in distant lands. The purpose of this page is to introduce a few of the musicians and encourage you to explore more on your own. A good place to get started is the Afghan Rap website. Click here.
Sonita Alizadeh: Breaking Down Walls
When she was eight years old, Sonita Alizadeh and her family fled war-torn Afghanistan for Iran. When she was sixteen, then living in Afghanistan, her mother told her she had to marry a man back in Afghanistan she didn't know. Sonita created a video about it, put it on Youtube; and the video dissuaded her mother. Now Sonita is a student in Utah, on scholarship, creating more rap videos about injustices. It takes true grit to have a strong heart and wide mind. It takes courage to be a fat soul: courage to say no to the idea that you are disposable and dispensable and yes to your own life. The "no" and the "yes" come from the same deep place in the heart: the spirit of creative transformation at work in the world. Certainly the spirit was at work in Sonita as she created the video, but it was also in her mother in her freedom to change her mind. The spirit is like a wind which blows freely in the world and freely in people's hearts, calling them to creativity and compassion, to break down walls of violence and injustice.
"I was a child laborer when I was a refugee in Iran. I was living with my brother, and our conversations were pretty heavy most of the time: He wanted me to abandon my education and go back to Afghanistan, because paying rent was very hard for him — his income was just enough to take care of himself and sometimes help my mother.
More Videos by Sonita Alizadeh
More Afghan Rap
The Influence of Rap
Ask a young Afghan, who has come of age in war and turmoil, why his peers should vote in the country's presidential election, and what might he say? He might break into a rap that goes something like this:
Go to the ballot boxes without any fear,
Go and exercise your voting right once again.
We saw suicide attacks, explosions, and bombings,
We saw the leaves of the trees turn yellow.
The screaming of that innocent, sick child,
It's the sacrifice of that old man's wound.
The teenagers, youngsters, and widows are voting for their county.
Or like this:
Is this kind of life really comfortable for you?
Where there is bloody war for 24 hours, just like breathing that comes and goes....
O countrymen, stand up on your feet for the sake of your country,
Show me the path in this election.
The rhymes come courtesy of the rap duo Sami and Shaheed, and Sonita, the male and female winners of a competition to develop an anthem for Afghanistan's elections in early April. The winners were announced earlier this month at an event in Kabul attended by music judges and Afghan election officials.
-- Seventy Percent of the Country's Population is under 25: Can Rap Make Them Interested in Politics? The Nation,
Music Festivals, Too!
"Without a doubt, Kabul now has a growing alternative arts scene and Sound Central Festival hosts the eclectic troop of artists in a dynamic, yet safe environment. It is clear that the Afghan youth are thirsty for more art based activities in the capital and this festival has become an annual showcase for years to come. With events like this, we are raising the bar on production output, artistic content and audience participation.